Publishing For Profit - Black Enterprise

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Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

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Dana Powell’s career in publishing began in the early 1990s when her father, Gary, asked her to go magazine shopping before her senior prom. “At that time, my father — he’s a firefighter now, but he used to design clothes back in the day — sent me out to find samples of dresses that I wanted,” recalls Powell. “So I went to various bookstores for a bridal magazine featuring women of color because I wanted to see colors on skin tones like mine and I just couldn’t find it.”

After she returned empty-handed, Powell’s father recommended that she do something about it. So the 16-year-old Powell promised her father that she would start one herself should there be no black bridal magazine by the time she completed college.

Serious about her publishing ambitions, Powell immersed herself in the industry, majoring in mass communication at Illinois State University, where she met Shannon Bonner in 1996. At the time, Bonner held a bachelor’s degree in mass communication and was working toward a master’s degree in marketing communication, all the while learning everything possible about the magazine publishing business. Powell was impressed with Bonner’s business expertise, and the two would soon become partners.

Some six years later, Powell, 28, would keep her promise to her father when she and Bonner, 31, launched Brides Noir from their Chicago home office. Catering to an underserved black consumer group, Brides Noir officially debuted in 2002 throughout 43 states. The test copy even caught the eye of a CBS producer, who asked to use one as a set prop on the hit sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. The 116-page premiere issue was distributed in over 40,000 retail stores nationwide.

The duo raised some $80,000 for startup costs by pooling personal savings, loans from family and friends, and a $20,000 award from the Miller Urban Entrepreneurs Series Business Grant Competition they won in 2001. “We were able to use that as seed money along with our personal assets and money from friends and family to launch our first issue,” recalls Powell. They spent 25% of their seed capital on promotions and total selling expenses, such as bridal expos throughout Chicago, sales commissions, and advertising through their Website; 32% on administrative costs such as utilities, legal fees, and editorial outsourcing; 35% on printing and distribution; and another 8% on miscellaneous expenses.

They also produced 15,000 test copies of the publication, but ran into a roadblock when they could not find a distributor. “We had all of this money and work on the line, but the book wasn’t going to be anywhere,” Powell says. Fortunately, Circulation Specialist West, a Colorado-based circulation consulting company, contacted Powell and Bonner after reading an article in The Wall Street Journal about their winning the business plan competition. Working with the firm, they were able to get a distribution company to deliver their test copies to several stores, including Barnes & Noble bookstores, in 2002. By the following year, the publishing duo would secure a contract with Anderson News Co. L.L.C. (ANCO),

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.